Fury over plans to tighten benefits

Plans to reform benefit laws during deepening gloom over the state of the jobs market sparked anger among the back benches last night.

With unemployment expected to go above the two million mark today, Labour left-wingers have attacked plans to impose tougher conditions on benefit claimants.

Ministers insist the reforms, which include forcing claimants to seek help finding a job and drafting in private-sector companies to help get people work, are essential to drive down long-term unemployment. The Bill, debated yesterday, also includes plans to force single parents of pre-schoolers to prepare for work.

John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, condemned the Welfare Reform Bill as an "anachronism... designed for an age when there's employment and there's arguments around people not taking up that employment".

James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, offered a concession last night, saying that he would accept amendments to increase benefits for blind people that would be worth an extra £29.

Ministers also faced further pressure from campaigners urging the Government not to abandon its targets for cutting child poverty in the face of the economic downturn.

The Child Poverty Action Group said the target to halve child poverty by 2010 should still be achievable.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments